By The Numbers: Was The Passing Better At Atlanta? You’ll Be Surprised

Atlanta Motor Speedway gave us our first glimpse at NASCAR’s new rules package for the 2019 season. It wasn’t the full “drafting” package but it did feature a taller spoiler, bigger splitter and only 550 HP.

NASCAR justification for the new package is to bunch the field up in the hopes of promoting passing. So, did it?

In an effort to be transparent, let’s take a look at the number of passes from 2019 and the 4 years prior.

Well, this is awkward.

Atlanta featured fewer passes than any race in the last 4 years. Sundays 2,036 passes were 280 less than 2018, 775 less than 2017, a whopping 1,681 less than 2016, and 1,067 less than 2015. Optically that’s not great.

However there are some positives. Sunday’s race had 35 passes for the lead which puts it second out of the last 5 years. It featured 25 lead changes which only trails 2015 & 2016 Atlanta that had 28 apiece. So while the package didn’t produce the passing it did produce passes for the lead and lead changes. That’s what matters right? Since that’s all FOX shows viewers at home.

The margin of victory in 2019 also beat the other years in a landslide. Keselowski beat Truex to the line by .218 seconds which is the closest finish at Atlanta since 2015. Contrary to what Darrell Waltrip said “Atlanta tends to give us these side by side finishes off turn 4.” When Darrell? 2001? William Byron was 4. Granted Atlanta has produced good racing it hasn’t produced that many memorable finishes.

NASCAR wanted to bunch the field up and for the most part you can say they probably did accomplish that. Cars were running closer to each other than normal. Atlanta is always going to be Atlanta with this surface. Handling still mattered and that’s why we saw the field spread out.

It’s so hard to say if this package was a success. On top of it being Atlanta it’s also the first race with this package. How the cars handled in dirty air, over a long run, etc. were all unknown. That’s not going to stop the NASCAR old-timers from lashing out on Facebook.

Las Vegas will be the first true test.

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